Fireworks and Thunder

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It is the Fourth of July- Fireworks abound, loud noises occurring perhaps for hours.  While we humans are oohing and aahing, too often our pets are frightened out of their wits. They’ll spend the holiday under the bed (or in the basement) cowering, shaking, drooling and seeking safety and comfort.

The best defense against Fourth of July problems is a good offense.  Please provide your pets with a safe hiding place inside your home during the holiday fireworks or a severe thunderstorm.  Dogs and cats who are comfortable in crates can find them a good place to ride out the noise, especially if the crate is put in a quiet, darkened part of the house.

The best thing would have been to have started “socializing” your pet to fireworks and thunderstorms ahead of time.  Of course, this may not be possible.  The optimal time to start would be when they are a puppy or kitten.  But don’t give up hope if your dog/cat is already an adult.  New behaviors can be learned.

One way to help your pet is to expose him or her to commercial recordings of thunderstorms or fireworks and play them at increasing volume. Play the recordings at a low volume initially while giving praise and treats.   As the volume and duration are increased during subsequent sessions, give them really tasty treats as well. Initially we suggest playing the recording for five minutes, eventually leaving it on during daily activities as “normal” background noise.

Another option for your dog is a “thunder jacket”.  It works the same way as swaddling a baby does, calming your dog.  The gentle pressure provides a calming effect.  Of course, some pets are so unhinged by noise that veterinary-prescribed tranquilizers from our office, Steinway Court Veterinarian are needed to keep them calm. Remember to call well in advance of the holiday, and give the medications as recommended — they usually work best before the rockets’ red glare begins.

Xylitol Poisoning from sugarless gum and other products

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Xylitol is a naturally occurring carbohydrate that is found in fibrous vegetables and fruit.  This  includes  mushrooms, raspberries, strawberries, yellow plums, lettuce and cauliflower. In fruits and vegetables the amount found is miniscule therefore most Xylitol is made in the lab.

Xylitol is used instead of sugar because it helps reduce the development of dental caries and plaque formation as well as being  low in calories.  Xylitol is a common ingredient in sugar-free products such as sugar-free candy, chewing gum, baked goods, and oral hygiene products.    Xylitol also is an ingredient in many over-the-counter human drugs, such as chewable vitamins,  throat lozenges and sprays.

However it is nothing like sugar for our four legged dog friends.  . Unfortunately, many people are unaware that Xylitol, even in minute amounts is extremely toxic to dogs. When ingested in significant quantity, the toxin causes severe liver necrosis (destruction). The amounts necessary are surprisingly small.  Should a 10 pound dog ingest a stick and a half of sugarless gum,  it is sufficient to cause life-threatening liver failure.

If you notice that you dog ate sugarless gum or another product that contains Xylitol seek immediate medical care!  Dogs with this intoxication should be presented as soon as possible to a veterinarian for evaluation of liver function  via blood work.  If the ingestion is noticed quickly, the  therapy would include  inducing vomiting.  If it is caught  late, agents may be given orally to try and bind the Xylitol in the gut. Supportive care with intravenous fluids, antibiotics to prevent secondary bacterial hepatitis, and mucosal protectants may aid in recuperation.

Sadly, most of the time, however, dogs simply present with sudden onset liver failure. which can make the diagnosis difficult and delay onset of treatment if the owner does not know about the ingestion of the gum.

Please keep this and other hazards away from your dog.

Curious about Xylitol and other household hazards?  Watch this.

ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at 888-426-4435

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Chocolate’s a No-No

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Chocolate is toxic to your dog (cats do not typically eat chocolate).  You may have heard of chocolate being bad for your pet but were unsure as to why.  A sudden high fat diet i.e. devouring a bag of candy bars left on the counter can create a lethal metabolic condition called pancreatitis.  Vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal pain are some of the symptoms that may appear.  Pancreatitis is due to the fat found in the chocolate, not the chocolate itself.

The chocolate itself is very toxic because of the theobromine that is found in the chocolate.  Theobromine occurs naturally in the cocoa tree/beans. The more chocolate liquor in a product, the more theobromine is present. Theobromine levels are higher in dark chocolates than in milk chocolates.  Higher quality chocolate tends to contain more theobromine than lower quality chocolate.  For instance, this makes baking chocolate the worst for pets, followed by semisweet and dark chocolate, followed by milk chocolate, followed by chocolate flavored cakes or cookies.  Why it is toxic to dogs and other pets but not people?  (I could not imagine a life without chocolate).  Animals metabolize theobromine more slowly than humans, therefore being in their system longer.  Theobromine may causes:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Hyperactivity/restlessness
  • Increased urination or incontinence
  • Muscle Tremors
  • Seizures
  • Racing heart rhythm progressing to abnormal rhythms

If you see that you dog at chocolate call our office 718-728-2822 immediately so we can induce vomiting and provide the necessary supportive care needed depending on the symptoms and time of ingestion.